IBM Seeks PC Time For World Community Grid
A little CPU could go a long way toward making inroads on several medical research fronts, including cancer, muscular dystrophy, and AIDS, and IBM promotes its World Community Grid to help with that.
As of now, IBM rates its World Community Grid project as the fifth fastest supercomputer in the world. It’s powered by the devices made available by individuals who download a software agent to run tasks when the PC is idle.
Currently some 262,000 members have the software agent running on over half a million machines. This provides nearly 77,000 years of run-time for the projects, which include proteome folding and genome comparison along with the three already mentioned.
IBM described the process of sending out jobs to the Grid and retrieving results:
Fourteen IBM servers serve as ‘command central’ for WCG. When they receive a research assignment from an organization, they will scour it for security bugs, parse it into data units, encrypt them, run them through a scheduler and dispatch them out in triplicate to the army of volunteer PCs.
As results come in, they are scrubbed, validated and assembled into a file. When all the calculations are returned and the assignment is complete, the data is packaged and sent to a directory for retrieval.
The World Community Grid has been in use for more than two years. Its first major project, phase one of the proteome folding effort, finished in July 2006. Phase two is the one running on WCG today.
Research being performed with the help of the WCG is nothing short of astonishing. In cancer research, the Grid helps speed up the analysis of Tissue Microarrays. This research can help oncologists determine cancer stages and types, and which therapies may be most effective.
Likewise, research into HIV/AIDS and muscular dystrophy seeks improved ways to treat those diseases. HIV is a moving target, while MD has long been without great understanding of how it works, much less a cure.
Determining how interactions take place in these conditions would take years of conventional research. By placing it into the Grid, the computational cycles made available can speed up the process. Maybe in someone’s home PC, a new treatment awaits discovery.